Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
And giving up was NOT an option for Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp.
Jan Koum was born to a Jewish family in the Ukraine in 1976. He grew up in Communist Ukraine, was poorer than most people can fathom, and his family lived in constant fear of the secret police. In 1992, Koum immigrated to America with his grandmother and mother, leaving his father behind. Jan and his mother did any job they could to make some money, but his mother was diagnosed with cancer, and they had to survive off of welfare and food stamps.
Jan managed to teach himself computers. His first computer was purchased at the age of 19 due to lack of money. His family didn’t even have enough money to call his father in the Ukraine.
And this is where the seeds must have been planted. “Communication is at the core of our society. That’s what makes us human,” Koum said.
Although Jan’s father had wanted to join them in the U.S., he sadly passed away in 1997 and was never able to see his family again. Three short years later, his mother died from cancer.
Most people in the face of such adversity would have given up everything. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” And that is exactly what Jan did. He took his misfortune and built upon it instead of giving up.
Jan started off working for Yahoo, and then he applied to work for Facebook – only to be REJECTED! This led him to work with his friend from Yahoo to create what ultimately became WhatsApp. He wanted it to be free so that people can communicate – something which he was not privileged to do with his father who was living in the Ukraine.
And on February 24, 2009 (which also happened to be Koum’s birthday) WhatsApp was launched. And well, the rest is history!
Eventually, Facebook, who originally rejected him, bought him out for 19 BILLION DOLLARS!
One Jewish man looked at his life, what he lacked, and created one of the most well known apps that exists today.
As Charles R. Swindoll said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”